Making Place for Space: Site-specific Land Use and Occupancy Studies in the Context of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot'in Decision


  • Thomas McIlwraith University of Guelph
  • Raymond Cormier Splatsin (First Nation)



traditional land use, land use and occupancy mapping, Secwepemc, methodology, Tsilhqot’in Decision, place, cultural landscape, natural resources, land policies, aboriginal rights, maps


As a method of recording Indigenous uses of the land, traditional land use mapping is a fixture in resource development-related consultation. In light of the recent Tsilhqot’in Decision in the Supreme Court of Canada, we argue that traditional land use documentation must move beyond the mapping of individual sites. Such work must consider the contexts in which Indigenous peoples use their traditional lands and as well as local, Indigenous concepts of management and governance. Drawing on an example of from Secwepemc territory in south-central British Columbia, we argue that the Tsilhqot’in Decision gives legal support to a more nuanced conception of the places of cultural significance to Indigenous peoples. We demonstrate further that the “spaces” between the places on traditional land use maps must be brought to the fore in development-related consultation.

Author Biographies

Thomas McIlwraith, University of Guelph

Thomas McIlwraith is an assistant professor at the University of Guelph. His interests include British Columbia ethnography and Indigenous land use. He has worked as a consulting anthropologist since 1997 and has held post-secondary teaching and researching positions since 2003.

Raymond Cormier, Splatsin (First Nation)

Raymond Cormier is of aboriginal descent from the Splatsin band of the Secwepemc Nation located in the British Columbia southern interior. He has held a position in the Splatsin Title and Rights Department since 2008 and as director since 2010. His background is in natural resource management and Secwepemc history and culture.